Technology

Republicans Concerned About Google-DoubleClick Merger

House Consumer Protection Subcommittee Members Fear Internet Consolidation 11/06/2007 02:15:00 PM Eastern

One-dozen Republican members of the House Consumer Protection Subcommittee called on chairman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) to hold hearings on the proposed merger of Google and DoubleClick.

Bobby Rush

They said they are concerned about the privacy implications of combining the mammoth search engine's database with the online behavioral-marketing database of DoubleClick.

Rush already wrote the Federal Trade Commission expressing concerns about online privacy and consumer protection, and the subcommittee held a September hearing on the competitive impact of the merger, but the Republicans want another hearing dealing with the privacy implications, saying that more questions were raised than answered.

"Google is an information colossus already, but add on DoubleClick’s marketing power and you produce a single commercial entity that can know more about you and me than nearly everybody but mom and the IRS," said the usually deregulatory ranking Republican, Joe Barton (Texas). "It looks like the old saw, ‘I know where you live,’ is only the start. They’ll know where we go, who and what we see, and what we buy, too. And they’ll know it forever."

"Google has taken a number of industry-leading steps to improve privacy for our users," Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich told B&C. "[T]he success of the DoubleClick acquisition depends on our retaining our users' trust.

"FTC Commissioner Jon Liebowitz said last week (http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=121695) that online privacy concerns 'really do transcend any particular acquisition,' and we think that Congress would be best served by taking an industry-wide look at the issue, just as the FTC did at last week's town hall."

Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, whose efforts helped prod the FTC into holding the town hall meeting,  has been arguing that the media combinations government should be focusing on are those in the online space with stealth marketing and privacy implications more so than traditional media-ownership concerns about how many TV or radio stations a company should be able to own.

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